Founder of Four Sigmatic – a functional foods company making world’s most nutrient dense foods more delicious and easier to consume.
As entrepreneurs, some days it feels like a badge of honor to pull an all-nighter or shout from the rooftops, “Sleep is for the dead!” But when productivity is the ultimate prize and you’re “hustling” to make your business happen, it’s more likely than not that you’re overworked.
It’s easy to become hyper-focused on productivity and learning every hack in the book. Unfortunately, that’s usually not sustainable. In the past nine years, I’ve developed my functional food startup and seen many founders and dear friends fall victim to overwork. Some have even needed to hand over their companies to take personal leave and repair their physical and mental health.
Entrepreneurship isn’t the same as running a three-minute mile. It’s about playing a long game. To make sure you’re not overworking and heading toward total burnout, there are three areas I like to focus on: rest, release, and connection.
1. Ensure you’re well rested.
I know it isn’t taught in business school, but I believe sleep can change your life and business. Let’s face it: Sleep plays a major role in your well-being, and if you’re constantly sacrificing that sleep in order to work, you — and your business — could start feeling the negative effects that come with being a sleep-deprived leader.
To help you get more rest, I recommend:
• Tracking your sleep habits: It’s time to track your sleep cycles as obsessively as you track your retail turns. The amount of sleep you need can vary from person to person, so find a sleep goal that works for you. There are many sleep-tracking tools to choose from, and in my experience, even just one week of observing your sleep patterns can help you figure out how you can get your best sleep.
• Creating your ideal sleep environment: I’ve learned from one of my good friends, who is an expert on sleep, the importance of building an environment that promotes good sleep. I’ve found using blackout shades, removing screens from your bedroom and good sheets can help. I also love my blue-light blockers, and if you prefer cooler temperatures, consider adjusting your mattress pad, opening a window, etc.
• Checking in with nature: This might be surprising, but I saw significant improvements in my sleep once I started to watch the sunrise and sunset every day. I try to also pair this with a walk to help myself prepare for bed or the day ahead.
• Napping when you need it: I thought naps were only for kids, but taking naps has completely changed my life. Block 15 to 20 minutes from your work calendar, and use that time to take a nap. You can try using a weighted blanket or wearing an eye mask to help you sleep during the day.
2. Find a release for the stress.
In my case, this means finding time to exercise. I’ve found that exercise can do more than burn calories or help you reach physical goals; it can also be an amazing way to release stress. Whether you attend a boxing class (and want to picture your current hurdle on the punching bag) or you’re simply going for a walk, I believe moving your body can help you process what you’re facing and clear your head.
You can also try practicing breathwork exercises indoors or outdoors to help you relax.
3. Connect with those you love.
My parents, brother and nephew are all still in Finland at our family farm. Now that I have a son myself, I’ve doubled down on my commitment to connect with them daily. A quick phone call or FaceTime while we’re on our walk helps me to be more productive at work, even though we never talk about work.
As human beings, we’re programmed to connect with other people. This isn’t about being an extrovert or introvert but about finding connections with those around you. That might mean talking to your leadership team about things outside of work or sharing something vulnerable with your best friend. Whether it’s virtual or in person, make time every day to connect with someone one-on-one.
Together, we can help to change our culture of overwork and burnout and start to build company cultures where there is a real work-life balance with truly healthy teams. Set an example with your own daily habits, and encourage your team to get on board.